A week before February 12, I was mentally counting down the days until the release of P.S. I Still Love You. The trailer looked fun, starting off with the iconic Kitty giving us a quick and humorous summary of the first movie, and then giving us snapshots of Lara Jean and Peter’s relationship. All seems to change when newcomer John Ambrose, another recipient of Lara Jean’s love letters, enters the scene. Even though I read the book and knew that this movie wouldn’t be as interesting as the first one, I was still excited for its release. After all, it wasn’t the first movie’s originality that made it so special– it was the vibrant characters and charming cast who played them.
And that’s just where this franchise should have ended– because the first movie was a perfect standalone. The final scene, showing Lara Jean and Peter together in the lacrosse field after professing their love for each other, would have been a wonderful way to wrap up these characters’ stories, leaving enough ambiguity for the audience to remain interested in their dynamic. Unfortunately, this nearly two-hour movie only seems to serve as a very, very extended epilogue to the first.
The issue with the entire premise of this follow-up is that Peter and Lara Jean are in a relationship now. The last movie, which spent its time gradually building up to this point, was what made it more interesting– because it had a purpose for its characters. But now what else can be said about our two protagonists? Nothing. Which is why, to stretch this movie out, drama had to be created. But if you want to engage the audience, you have to sell the drama compellingly– which this movie didn’t do.
To create weaknesses in Peter and Lara Jean’s pretty rock-solid relationship and make room for John Ambrose, a couple of things had to be done. P.S. I Still Love You shows Lara Jean’s insecurity of being with Peter, since his ex was Gen, who had been involved with him for a long time prior. This would have been believable– but other than a couple of quick mentions here and there, this aspect of Lara Jean’s relationship was completely glossed over. The next thing to do was have Peter’s personality do a complete 180– the charming and charismatic protagonist turned into a complete jerk who didn’t seem to care at all about Lara Jean. He leaves her waiting for hours at a coffee shop, doesn’t tell her about spending time with Gen (or the fact that Gen was the one who uploaded the video from the previous movie that made Lara Jean the laughingstock of the school) but gets jealous when she spends time with John Ambrose. Although it’s later revealed he was spending so much time with Gen because her parents are splitting up, it becomes harder and harder to really root for Peter as the movie goes on.
But not John Ambrose. Jordan Fisher’s portrayal of John Ambrose is lovable and heartfelt. It makes you fall in love with him instantly. And this was probably the biggest problem of the movie. The tertiary part of the love triangle is supposed to serve as an annoyance, a character who you dislike because he or she stands in the way of who the protagonist is supposed to be with. But personally, I ended up liking John Ambrose a lot more than Peter. He was sweet and truly cared about Lara Jean, and the two clicked on so many levels. They both love reading, they volunteer at Belleview senior center together, they’re both not into partying. Lara Jean even explains in her love letter how she knew she was in love with John– when they both dressed up in elaborate costumes for Halloween and no one else did, and she realized that they were both “lame in a cool way.” Given all of that, how am I not supposed to be convinced that Lara Jean and John Ambrose are soulmates? Especially when we see how much more maturely John Ambrose acts than Peter. When Peter, jealous of Lara Jean and John, asks John an insulting question in the tree house, John coolly and gracefully replies.
As adorable as John Ambrose is, it remains clear who Lara Jean will end up with– perhaps because I read the book. But this is also pretty clear because John was hardly given justice in the movie. He made a surprisingly limited number of appearances, barely giving the audience the chance to really know him. In a way, he was too perfect, someone who clicked with Lara Jean a little too well. Rom-coms seldom end so nicely, and although John Ambrose would have certainly been the better boyfriend for Lara Jean, the audience wouldn’t care about their relationship as much. It is Peter and Lara Jean’s complementing personalities that make their romance so special.
Besides that, though, the movie was just a whole lot of… nothing. Many aspects of the book were taken out, actually– like the video storyline, which was covered in the previous movie. Further, a whole set of characters who were important in the last movie were pushed to the sidelines in the follow-up. Josh and Margot didn’t even show up (except one quick FaceTime call from Margot); Trevor, Chris and Lucas collectively had less lines than I could count on both hands (not really, but close); and Dr. Covey’s relationship with Ms. Rothschild, the neighbor, seemed to come out of nowhere. But what I’m most upset about, character-wise, is Kitty. The wisecracking younger sister of Lara Jean, and one of the stars of the first movie, was also pushed to the sidelines in place of the mediocre Belleview/John Ambrose storyline, and had way fewer lines that she should have. Although I understand that they aren’t integral to the story, Jenny Han has created such lovable and interesting secondary characters that one can’t help but wish to see a bit more of them. There was much more filler than there should have been, like various random songs inserted at inopportune moments and recordings of long car rides and Lara Jean baking.
That being said, I don’t mean to be a complete downer. There were definitely parts to this movie I enjoyed. The casting was very well decided, the actors fitting the roles of their characters perfectly and having effortless chemistry with each other. I also really liked the ending with Gen, more than the book’s ending. Although Lara Jean ends up coming to terms with Gen’s relationship with Peter in both, Gen still remains unnecessarily unkind to Lara Jean in the book, while in the movie, both of them make amends in a mature way. This was a satisfying ending to their relationship arc, showing that Gen was more than just the stereotypical mean girl, and that both girls with such a long history together could go back to being friends. Plus, there was the addition of Stormy, the fun, humorous and rebellious older lady at Belleview, who developed a very sweet friendship with Lara Jean. But like so many other characters, she didn’t get the screen time she deserved. Finally, there was, of course, the main reason why we’re invested in this franchise at all– Kavinsky. P.S. I Still Love You gave us plenty of those adorable couple-y moments between Lara Jean and Peter, their cute dates and the banter that made us fall for them in the first place.
Ultimately, though, there was no point to this movie. Even if the movie had the amount of empty filler that it had, but still had a meaningful ending, my review would have been much more positive. However, Lara Jean’s and Peter’s dynamic remained exactly the same as it did in the last movie, with an ending literally identical to the first one, although they professed their love for each other outside a senior center instead of in a lacrosse field. There was no purpose of breaking them up, just to bring them back together–because Lara Jean’s relationship with John Ambrose went nowhere for her “revelation” that she was meant to be with Peter to be significant. The only change that I can say happened from the first movie was that Lara Jean realized that relationships are hard, but that’s part of life. Although this was an important lesson for her to learn, it didn’t really warrant a 2-hour movie. But I don’t regret watching it. I think that if you’re a fan of To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, you should still watch P.S. I Still Love You, for continuity– but don’t set your expectations high.